The life of the mind is a composition of two forces: the necessity to believe in order to live, and the necessity to reason in order to advance. In ages of poverty and chaos the will to believe is paramount, for courage is the one thing needful; in ages of wealth the intellectual powers come to the fore as offering preferment and progress; consequently a civilization passing from poverty to wealth tends to develop a struggle between reason and faith, a “warfare of science with theology.” In this conflict philosophy, dedicated to seeing life whole, usually seeks a reconciliation of opposites, a mediating peace, with the result that it is scorned by science and suspected by theology. In an age of faith, where hardship makes life unbearable without hope, philosophy inclines to religion, uses reason to defend faith, and becomes a disguised theology.
William Durant, The Age of Faith (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1950), p. 405.
It is not the thinking of thoughts (i.e., the mental experience of information) that proves being but rather the experience of the thoughts. I do not know the next thought that will appear in my consciousness, so how can I take credit for creating these thoughts? And how can I therefore prove “my” existence because these thoughts exist? And yet, it feels as if I have creative ownership of these thoughts somehow. Perhaps, this feeling of ownership is an erroneous assumption that gained legitimacy with the passage of time. I suppose it is also possible that I do in some fashion create my thoughts on a subconscious level. Even so, it is a subconscious creation and therefore my conscious mind cannot claim ownership. In any respect I must conclude that I experience thoughts and not necessarily create them or put another way, I experience thoughts, therefore I am.
Perhaps my thoughts come from multiple external and internal sources and I am a hub in which these thoughts can be experienced. In my experience of thought, I can express a preference as to my thoughts. Some thoughts are pleasurable whereas other thoughts are distressful (for example). I can more readily lay claim to this exercise of preference because I experience it immediately. As with most things I experience, I can tell right away whether I prefer it or not. Somethings require deliberation (and perhaps I can lay claim to the deliberative process as well). This is what I refer to when I say “I” or “me”. That is, I am a hub or intersection point that has the ability to experience thoughts and express a preferences related to said thoughts. But I am not the creator of the thought nor am I the thought as might be tempting to suppose.
If I am merely the experiencer of thought and not necessarily the creator of the thought, then I need not feel ashamed for the mere experience of any thought that crosses my mind. Of course morality comes into play in (perhaps) the preference and the (more certainly) choosing to act on a preference, but not the experience of the thought itself. And some thoughts are tempting to pursue in the short term but give rise to greater problems in the long term. Experience teaches us (if we have the capacity to learn… which I can also lay claim to as “I” because it is an intrinsic quality) how to differentiate between these things.
You cannot put toothpaste back in the tube very easily once it has been squeezed out. So much so, that it has become an analogy for all things that are difficult to undo once done. So much so, it suggests the universe was designed in such a way that once toothpaste is squeezed from the tube, it goes against the design to force it back in. So much so, one might say it is God’s will that once toothpaste has been squeezed from a tube, it is not worth the effort to force the toothpaste back into the tube.
Other things are not like that. On a societal level, some changes, once made are resisted and eventually return to their original state. The attempts to convert the United States to the metric system comes to mind. Whereas others (like the toothpaste analogy) once made are extremely difficult to unmake and therefore the suggestion is that it is not worth the effort to unmake them or perhaps they should not be unmade.
The Roman Empire’s adoption of Christianity is an interesting example. In 313 the Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan whereby the Roman Empire would treat Christianity benevolently as a matter of policy. This cleared the way for Christianity to replace the old religion of paganism. Fifty years later the Emperor Julian who ruled from 361 to 363 attempted to bring the Roman Empire back from Christianity to paganism. It did not work. The new religion of Christianity had in a mere fifty years had taken hold. Julian’s successor easily reversed this short lived policy and the Roman Empire remained Christian until it fell. Christianity went on to become the driving force of European civilization. Once Christianity had been squeezed from the tube it was very difficult to put it back in.
Why are some things more difficult to put back into the tube once squeezed out? One can postulate that Truth is the reason. That is, what has been squeezed from the tube provides a more clear picture of the world than what existed before the squeezing. The Romans and Europeans who inherited the remains of the empire saw that there was a greater truth to Christianity than paganism had to offer.
Of course Christianity survives to this day but there is a sense that it has (at least in its current form) passed its peak. Something else has been squeezed from the tube. That has provided a more clear picture of the world (at least in some respects). Whatever has been squeezed from the tube, it seems unlikely and perhaps impossible that it can be forced back into the tube as some would want. The question is, does the degree of difficulty mean that it is God’s will that it be so?